Humans are social creatures. Thousands of years of cave dwelling, tribalism and tiny villages genetically wired us with the need to connect. Social media, it turns out, is as old as the species itself.
It’s changed a lot through the years — and, in some ways, not at all. For example, kids today text and tweet one another. They send and receive thousands of these per week without even being in the same room, country or continent.
In my time, social media was limited to the passing of notes. It required paper, pencil and some kind of manual delivery system. The range was generally limited to the same room or at least the same building.
Girls were the most prolific note passers, amassing as many as five to 10 per school day. The notes were folded cleverly into a triangular packet, easily slipped into another desk or passed discretely during class.
Guys folded papers into the same shape, but we didn’t write on them. It was more of a pre-video game thing. We called these packets “footballs.” Standing a football on its point under an index finger, we used the other index finger to attempt field goals through the upraised goal-post fingers of another guy.
Sounds archaic and trivial compared to the technological capabilities available for note passing today. But then we didn’t send naked pictures of ourselves to what would eventually be everyone. So there’s that.
Messaging wasn’t entirely safe. In the sixth grade, I spotted a girl dumping her accumulated correspondence into the teacher’s trash can. When she left, I “recycled” them into my pockets.
The notes were full of gossip — who was the cutest guy in class, sleepover plans, makeup parties, even the alarming, “I’ll get my brothers to fix Bobby.”
Truth was, her brothers weren’t necessary. All I had to do was give in to my natural journalistic instincts and tell everyone the news. I was a whistleblower.
I told Leon that Shirley and Nancy thought he was “dreamy.” I let Annie know that other girls thought she was stuck up. And then there was some serious news regarding who was kissing whom.
My note hack didn’t go unnoticed. A couple of days later, a girl mob was waiting for me when the bell rang. It’s still a blur of scratching, slapping, screaming and kicking. I didn’t need a haircut for a month.
From petroglyphs to mail to tweets, the management of social media has changed through the centuries, One thing hasn’t changed in all that time: people.
We’re still the same mean-spirited, gossiping, backstabbing, snide creatures we’ve always been.
A hundred thousand years ago, someone scratched “stupid Oog still hasn’t learned how to use his thumbs” into a cave wall. Fifty years ago, a girl scribbled a note about me to her friends, saying, “I’d rather go to prom with a dead pig.”
Free from the repercussions of saying things to someone’s face, we pull out all the stops. Hell, we don’t even bother to hide what we’re tweeting.
Today, it isn’t just kids and easily offended adults getting snarky. World leaders are sending nasty notes as well. Consider the following from one of them, whose name I will keep to myself.
“Crooked Hillary Clinton is the worst (and biggest) loser of all time. She just can’t stop, which is so good for the Republican Party. Hillary, get on with your life and give it another try in three years!”
Now does that sound like it came straight out of the sixth grade or what?
Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.